Does creativity need a lot of consecutive time?

Discussion in 'Composition, Orchestration & Technique' started by DANIELE, Feb 5, 2019.


    DANIELE Active Member

    Here I am with another "philosophical" question about composition.

    I asked about piano sketch in my "condition" and you people gave me some very precious advices so I'll try to ask some other thing.

    How do you deal with little time for composing? I mean how full time workers like me deal with creativity when they came back from a day of working and maybe they have only a pair of hours to play something?

    The most complicated phase of composing is the "creation" part when you think about rhythm, themes and other things for your track. Could you break this process to came back to it maybe the day after and so on? Is this dangerous to the result you want to achieve.

    When I create something I feel very focused and I feel like I could stay like this for hours, then I have to stop to go to bed and maybe the day after it is not the same think and maybe I loose what I've done the day before.

    How do you deal with this? How do you stay focused on an objective for maybe a week or more when you have to do many other things?

    I record everything cames to my mind, I wrote it down maybe but I feel like I loose something while time flows away.

    Let me know what do you think and maybe what is your "method" to stay focused even if life brings you away from music...

    Thank you.
    whiskers and Wally Garten like this.
  2. douggibson

    douggibson Active Member

    Jan 9, 2016
    Work during the time you are most naturally creative. I found that composing first thing after waking up was very rich for me. So I would get up @4:30 or 5 am and get about 2 hours before work.

    It doesn't completely make up for dedicating full time to it. You just have to adjust your expectations and accept that for now it will take longer to get some works done. On the bright side, you have a job and can pay rent and eat.

    Also I found writing in a journal on my lunch break was very inspiring. I would aim to write 2/3 pages of just words and ideas about my composing and what interests me.

    After the piece was developed enough, and I had already made some clear and concrete decisions, yes.

    If you are still "fishing" for an idea or inspiration, then of course it can cause a delay to recall what you previously were thinking about.

    Lastly I would say watch out that the putting off for a few days is not actually some unconscious fear.
    We all have some strange inner resistance to our creativity. This is why it's really good to have set times in your calendar which you show up and work, regardless of how you feel. Masterpiece syndrome is common. Some pieces .... it is what it is. Just keep up the consistency.

    Simplify your life. Say no to people. You'll never fully "fit it in" to your schedule. You simply have to make choices about what is most important to you, and the use of your time.
  3. Desire Inspires

    Desire Inspires Senior Member

    Jul 30, 2016
    Miami Beach
    Yeah, just write what you can and let the piece live. No more endless tweaking and editing a piece. Get the song done and start a new one.
  4. MartinH.

    MartinH. Senior Member

    Jun 16, 2018
    I think it's a bigger problem that that time is "after a full day of working" than that it's just one or two hours. I would suggest to try getting up (and going to bed) an hour earlier and doing that one focused hour in the morning before work and make the most of it. I've heard of other people who found that method very beneficial for getting e.g. a side business up and running.
    So pretty much what @douggibson already said.
  5. WindcryMusic

    WindcryMusic Always learning

    Oct 19, 2015
    I think the more important thing is to spend at least some time on it each day, without skipping days. Not so much that there needs to be a large number of contiguous hours spent on a single day in being musically creative, but that one avoids having too many days where one is unable to work this into their schedule at all.

    I've been having a problem with the latter myself as of late, due to daytime work stresses not leaving me in an energetic or creative mindset in the evening, and as a result my creative impulses feel very, very rusty at the moment. Much like Doug and Martin have said above, I've been thinking about trying to adjust my sleep hours so that I have a few hours in the studio or at the piano in the early morning, before the rigors of the daytime job have had the chance to once again crush my soul.
    whiskers, ptram, Wally Garten and 3 others like this.
  6. OP

    DANIELE Active Member

    Thanks to all for your advices. Every time I compose I cross through the masterpiece syndrome and love-hate syndrome.
    The first one is about: "Yeah, I'm about to begin the best piece of mine, this time the universe will fall at my feet, ok now I'm going to...I'm going to...oh f*ck!!"
    The second one is about: "Ok, my idea is pretty great, I love it, I think it will be a great piece"...the day after..."'s horrible, I don't like it, how the hell I could like it" and so on...this is where I found the most difficult part, to stay focused!

    Pass through these passages is very difficult and hard, but once I've done with that I have to agree with myself that the next track will be better and I have to use the actual one to learn something new. It is a neverending way...

    Another problem is that I cannot stop me from composing and making music and this gets me frustradet over time because I need much of it to get a work done. I think I should take a break from music sometime...
    The only problem with this is the "call" of music in my head, it never stops so I don't know how to find the right balance...I'll try to do what you said to me and I'll try to adapt it to myself.
  7. OP

    DANIELE Active Member

    I'll think about composing early morning but I have to think also how to work for 9 hours during the day without falling asleep. I'd like to go to bed earlier in the evening but I have a late dinner due to work so it is not so easy.

    Anyway I have to say I'm happy to have a job (like doug said), so I can pay my house and many other things I need (music libraries included :D).
  8. WindcryMusic

    WindcryMusic Always learning

    Oct 19, 2015
    All true, and my own day job has allowed me to pay off my home mortgage as well as build up a fairly capable studio, etc. But the physical, mental and emotional cost is mounting, and at some point I'm not going to be able to bring myself to pay it anymore, and now I just hope to build up enough resources to be okay thereafter. I even have a target date in mind for that, one which I won't share publicly yet, but thank goodness it isn't all that far away. There's a light at the end of this tunnel, and beyond it ... nothing but music. Looks a lot like heaven, really.
    Stillneon, DANIELE and MartinH. like this.
  9. LowweeK

    LowweeK Loïc D

    Oct 12, 2015
    Paris, France
    I still haven't figure out. :)

    But some thoughts :
    - Think creatively in your regular work. I sometimes think about a theme / idea / mixing trick / arrangement when commuting, having a break, etc.
    - Make list, or record a sketch on your phone, etc.
    - When you got something, try it ASAP when you come back. Don't wait for days or weeks to try your ideas : the energy / motivation will be lost meanwhile
    - Try to work more regurlarly, even if less time everytime. Work your music muscle.
    - Try to finish what you started. Probably the most important, since it's the most daunting when composing scarcely in your free time (my HD is full of born-dead projects).
    - Work with deadlines (real or self-established)

    Again, I'm far from following all those rules.
    I've got a hi-paid that comes with a high cost in energy & stress.
    Also, I'm currently designing a template to allow me to sketch more quickly.
  10. OP

    DANIELE Active Member

    I'm happy for you, for me it is still a very long way. As many human beings I always hope for something to happens one day to maybe work less and compose more but I have to clash with the real life every day.
    I'm a dreamer but I'm always a real human with a real life.
    I have a good work but the time and energy spent in it are more and more and sometimes I ask myself why I have this "gift" and I can't use it like I would...

    I try to do everything you are saying, the only things that make me worried is deadlines, because I cannot has to much near deadlines. I have to much of them at work.

    I'm always working on my template to optimize it and to make it faster (see my other thread about sketching for example). I'm always looking for shortcuts and enhancements but I have to understand that the greatest limit is in my head.

    What a good discussion it is becoming, thank you guys for sharing your experience, I feel less alone now.
    Wally Garten and MartinH. like this.
  11. joebaggan

    joebaggan Member

    Dec 5, 2017
    Great thread. I struggle with balancing my passion for composing with the realities of an unrelated and often demanding full time job. My most productive times are weekend mornings, but feel I should try music in early mornings more during the week, since my creativity is shot by the end of a work day. Really looking forward to retirement when I have more time to spend on music, but not too close for me unfortunately.
    DANIELE and WindcryMusic like this.
  12. Wally Garten

    Wally Garten Active Member

    Apr 23, 2018
    As others have said, do something every day. Even if it's just practicing your instrument. But really, to be "productive," in the sense of making recorded music (or written compositions), it's helpful to (a) set a specific, limited project goal and not deviate from it, and (b) do a small chunk of it every day.

    I'm like you in that I only get an hour or maybe two every day. So I have to do my music-making in small chunks. Right now I'm working on a project that's deliberately limited to one drum machine, one synth, and vocals. So far the process is kinda like this: One day (or over multiple days) I write lyrics. Another day I improvise with the drum machine and get some beats recorded. Another day I go back and review those beats and pick out the ones I like. On another day I do a first pass at vocals. Maybe I need a second pass -- that's another day. I might need a few days to do sound design for different synth parts, and a few days to write some initial motifs for each part. Maybe on another day I record those parts, or maybe I take a break from that part and go back and cut up the drums and vocals. As I get more pieces into the DAW, it starts to take shape, and then I evaluate what other pieces still need to be done. It's an iterative process. But the point is that every day I set one small goal that I can achieve (or at least do one pass at, knowing I'll have to come back and keep working on the same task tomorrow).

    Bottom line: I think being project-focused and deliberately limiting your choices makes it easier to do the work in small pieces.

    I don't really know how to answer your more philosophical question: whether being constrained in this way makes it harder to be genuinely creative. Am I reaching for the first, simplest musical or lyrical answer because I've got a limited amount of time? I don't think so. I'll take as many one-or-two-hour sessions as I need to get to something I like. But it's hard to say for sure, and sometimes I certainly do wonder: if I had two more hours to think about this, or I weren't so tired, could I do something a little better? It's a constant struggle. But the only tools available to me are honest self-evaluation and the willingness to invest a few more one-to-two-hour sessions. So that's what I rely on.
    DANIELE and MartinH. like this.
  13. I like music

    I like music Active Member

    Oct 26, 2015
    I'm in the same position. I'm trying to get better at hearing music in my mind, and being able to notate/write music (never learned growing up) so that as and when ideas strike (if I'm out) I can jot them down. Sometimes, I'll whistle into an audio recorded on my phone.

    ... then later, I'll just watch shit TV and go to sleep. But yeah, I think spending time during the day (work breaks etc) to get something done may also be helpful.
    DANIELE likes this.
  14. JohnG

    JohnG Senior Member

    Nov 13, 2007
    I think I agree with that. Some people find themselves most creative at night but when I'm on a project I'm often up at 4 in the morning.

    to the OP -- the other thing is to just sing into your phone's recording device. I write a lot of ideas down like that if I'm in the car and feel inspired.

    It's fast, if imperfect; it's also safer. I find it awkward to scribble notation while piloting a vehicle on the 405.
    whiskers, Wally Garten and DANIELE like this.
  15. OP

    DANIELE Active Member

    Sometimes I'm inspired and I record many ideas on my phone, I've a huge amount of files recorded with my voice. Then I have to filter that a bit because some ideas are maybe not so good for me.

    The problem is how to transport that in a full piece and how to put it down as you thinked it. This is why I have to spend some of my time for studying and not practicing.

    All the process requires a lot of effort and I'm often on the edge of throw away everything and doing something else, anyway I force me to go further hoping to reach the objective.

    It's very hard to be focused on one objective over time...very hard...
    MartinH. likes this.
  16. ptram

    ptram Senior Member

    Nov 30, 2013
    Most teachers of creative writing and music composition say that you must work regularly, as much as you can each day.

    I've always failed to be able to do more than sketching in my free time after work. To complete a work, I've always needed time, focus, silence. I need two days alone to clean my mind. Only at that point, the work's design appears as in a primal light.

    There are various great artists who did the same in the history. The risk is to keep them as excuses not to try to work the methodical way.

    whiskers and DANIELE like this.
  17. OP

    DANIELE Active Member

    Yes, you're right Paolo. This is why I force myself to do something every day as much as I can, to erase all the excuses and to fight them.

    I'm like you I did something good only when I had some days to work on it. And often, when I have some days of pause from work (very rarely), I need at least one day to recover my mind and then I can compose something, sad story...
    ptram likes this.
  18. JohnG

    JohnG Senior Member

    Nov 13, 2007
    Don't be too hard on yourself. If you work full time it's hard to write -- energy and sheer time are important.
    DANIELE, whiskers, ptram and 2 others like this.
  19. OP

    DANIELE Active Member

    As I said many times, composing for me is a need, this is why maybe often I complain about this. Thanks for your kind words anyway. I know I need to rest but my musical inner voice doesn't give me peace.
  20. Saxer

    Saxer Senior Member

    Mar 30, 2008
    I'm most effective (and happy) when I know what to do when I start. For me it's good to keep an idea for the next day or work on an idea I thought about through the day (or night). Sitting down at the empty DAW with an empty head isn't a good start. So it's not too bad to interrupt the work.
    I do music full time but it devides into different tasks. So there are a few days in most weeks when I can't work in the studio.

Share This Page